No excuses

I was watching a youtube photography channel earlier this week, the location was an area of outstanding beauty, the sun was out, yet the first words after the intro were ‘ The sky is too blue!’

I too have been out on Dartmoor on a beautiful sunny day, happily taking in the vast openness but wishing for cloud, yet on those grey rainy days, I wish for sun, essentially photographers are never happy!

In the eternal search for perfect light, we will always find something that isn’t quite right but the last couple of days have provided skies full of character with an ever changing light that gave plenty of opportunity for image making, today there would be no excuses.

While travel on public transport for photography trips is still out of the question, I am taking full advantage of the opportunity for unlimited exercise by taking walks around Exeter’s picturesque quayside and river walks, pictures I have taken a few hundred times before but with a renewed appreciation of what is on my doorstep.




For the record, all images were taken with a recently adopted Canon 5d Mark 1 with canon 20-35mm lens, there is something about using older camera gear I really like.

Fuji Jpegs

I have been using Fuji cameras on and off for the last seven or eight years, I say on and off because I have had a tendency to chop and change gear, not because I think I will become a better photographer, more because I have simply enjoyed trying different cameras.

I have come full circle in the last couple of years, there is just something about these cameras that has drawn me back to the Fuji family, a combination of the physical the dials, a range of superb lenses and excellent image quality are of course a factor but for me, they are cameras that you want to pick up on days out.

Using my X100f for a whole year for a recent project, changed my photographic ethos, I was a long time member of the ‘shoot raw only’ club, until I began to experiment with the well regarded ‘film’ simulations, I will now happily shoot Jpeg only for my personal photography, especially as I feel less inclined to sit at a computer for hours clicking on sliders.

Yesterday was one of those JPEG days, knowing that I do not have a Raw image to fall back on, keeps me focussed on getting the exposure right first time, a discipline that I had become complacent with, given how forgiving Raw files can be.

A selection from yesterday, with minor cropping and straightening in capture 1, with a vignette added to the daisy image.


Lockdown photo walks

It’s five am, the first morning of the second three week lockdown, but my intention is to make full use of my exercise walk today.

With an early morning chill in the air, I am hoping to capture the mist on the River, before the sun’s rays reach out to melt its ethereal shroud.

My relatively short walk to the river path is barely interrupted by the roar of normal weekday traffic, in the words of the Morrissey song, ‘Every day is like Sunday’.
On reaching the footpath, the nearby playing fields have a coating of low cloud suspended above the grass, floating islands of mist, with a subtle pink tinge in the sky above, the first image of the day is bagged.

As the sun begins its dawn ascent, hues of orange light the underbelly of the clouds above with its fiery palette.
Watching the sun rise has always been a pleasure and a privilege I have treasured, under current circumstances, my joy in watching the day unfold is seen with a new appreciation.

The River has dropped somewhat from my last walk here in early February, it is possible to take picture from the waters edge in places, taking shots from previously inaccessible viewpoints.

From my new vantage point, I watch the mist slowly fade in the embrace of the sun’s warmth but not before I have a few more photos in the bank.

From these all too brief moments of perfect solitude, I am joined along the path by the few early morning runners, each of us respecting the other’s space, while exchanging polite ‘Good mornings’ ‘and thank you’s’.

My route home takes me back towards the quayside of the River Exe, the water lies still, with reflections of the riverside residences providing more camera fodder for yours truly.

 

Being creative

If this were a normal Easter weekend, I would look forward to a long walk at dawn to capture the sunrise, as I have done over the last few years, however, 2020 is far from a normal year.

With lockdown approaching its third week, I have resisted the temptation to take a camera with me on my daily walk, but have thought of alternative ways of being creative with the camera, while staying at home.

In one of my recent decluttering exercises, I found a few odds and sods that may enable me to make a rudimentary light box for some close up photography, that little seed of an idea was put into practice today, where I fashioned my basic cube from some sturdy packaging, and made good use of the black fabric of an old sports hold all  to make a simple backdrop for inside the box, with other coloured fabrics bought cheaply online.

For the light source, I have used two LED strips that were being thrown away, part of another light box that had broken but the LED’s still worked.

While I was happy with my fabric background, for the dandelion shots, I used the screen of a long since dead tablet, the glass offering a certain amount of reflection.

Above are the results of an hour of finding things from around the house and garden, no doubt there will be more to come.

From the archives

This is the sort of blog I would normally write during those dark winter days, a reminiscence of previous outings, a looking forward to the seasons to come, this however, could be the first of many ‘staying home’ entries during the unwelcome presence of the Covid – 19 virus.

I am using this time to catch up on those jobs that have been left for too long on the bottom rung of the task ladder, to read that book I bought last year and to have another attempt at sorting through terabytes of images taken over the last 5 years.

It was while I going through this process, a trip to Buckfastleigh steam railway, jumped out as being one of my best days out in the last 2 years.
It was not the most inspiring of days in terms of weather, a grey misty day with drizzle hanging in the air, but a trip to a steam railway could offer something out of seemingly nothing, in the back of my mind, I had the thoughts of some ‘film noir’ style images to create some interest.

Steam railways are places I could spend hours exploring, with platforms often furnished with vintage luggage trucks, old suitcases and coloured signs of the products of the time.
Old rolling stock often lies abandoned on sidings, not always accessible to the public but Buckfastleigh has little that is not accessible.

I enjoy the chats I have with the many volunteers that help keep these railways open, their love of keeping the steam heritage alive is evident, one of the reasons for my frequent visits here.

For those that are interested, these were taken with a Lumix G80 m43 camera with 25mm 1.4 lens (50mm in full frame terms)

When time allows, there will be many places to revisit, in the meantime, I had better crack on with the sorting ….

Focusing on 50

I have not set myself any long term photographic projects for this year but over the last few weeks I have been giving myself a mixture of small challenges on my days out.
One of my recent ideas, was to turn off the EVF of my X100F and compose all photos in the optical viewfinder and expose with the camera’s meter reading, not allowing myself the option to view the images on the screen once I had taken them, until I got back home.
At first, it was hard to resist the temptation to ‘chimp’ but as the day went on, it became second nature.

Today, as I began to pack my camera bag, I decided on a one camera, one lens day, the camera, my Fuji XE2, the lens, a recently acquired Fuji 35mm f2 (52mm equivalent in full frame terms).
An early browse of train timetables and a decision was made to head to Plymouth for some street photography for a few hours.

Arriving in Plymouth just before 10am, the skies were a characterless grey wash of bland nothingness, at least my chosen focal length would allow for tighter crops in my subjects today.

I would normally head straight towards Plymouth Hoe, grab a few shots of the Sir Francis Drake statue and Smeaton’s tower, this morning I would head for the main shopping areas first, then work my way towards the Hoe and Barbican area.

Conscious of the fact that my last visit to Plymouth was not that long ago, I plan a route to avoid my normally well trodden path, attempting to find more varied shots, something different for the archive, while making mental notes for potential shots on brighter days in the future.

Once again, I find a level of satisfaction in using just one lens, at no point today have I wished for a wider focal length, instead, really enjoying working the image with what I have.

I break my normal routine of finding a cafe for a cup of tea and to browse my days work, I will wait until I am on the train back home, there are just a few shots I want to try and get on the way to the train station….

 

New technology, old methods

As technology in digital cameras becomes ever more advanced, the inquisitive part of me looks forward to reading about the latest features in new cameras, yet my inner luddite  feels that the technological roundabout is going too fast and I want to get off.

Since acquiring my first digital camera, I fully appreciated the way that settings could be changed on the fly, I embraced the way that I could experiment with composition more, as I was no longer restricted to a maximum of 12, 24 or 36 exposures per roll of film, I could also see my image in an instant, rather than having to wait for my last roll  to come from the developers via the post.

Modern cameras all have state of the art video capabilities, they allow us to see how our images will look within the viewfinder, perfect for the fast paced society we live in today, where we want everything yesterday, each new camera boasts faster autofocus but it is too easy to become reliant on the tech and forget the art of photography.

My enjoyment of ‘old school’ photography has perhaps been rekindled by the ability to use manual focus vintage lenses on mirrorless cameras, a reminder of when most SLR cameras only came with a 50mm lens and we were perfectly happy.

It was with this ‘old school’ mindset that I decided to set myself a challenge on yesterday’s outing to Budleigh Salterton and Sidmouth.
Since my X100f has both an electronic and optical viewfinder, I set the camera to OVF only and switched the rear LCD screen option to viewfinder only, relying only upon the camera’s meter reading for exposure ( a bit like the original X100).

For the first few shots, I had to resist the urge to look at the rear screen but soon got into a ‘wait and see it later’ frame of mind, it was then that I began to realise how much more care I was taking in each shot, if I wanted each one to count, I had to be more patient.

Back at the car, while enjoying a hot cup of tea, I took the opportunity to look at the images I had taken, it was almost like opening that package of developed photos for the first time, it was a pleasantly rewarding exercise that I will continue with on future shoots.

Finding the fifty

The first few weeks of 2020 have been reasonably productive ones so far, I have finally commenced the long overdue task of cataloguing my images and have begun the process of looking at downsizing my collection of vintage lenses and other camera gear.

I have come to the realization that I do not require five camera bags, three 35mm 2.8 lenses, four 50mm lenses from f1.4 to f2.8 respectively, as well as a 55mm and 58mm lenses, as well as three tripods and other related accessories.

It is one of the fifties that forms today’s musing, specifically the Super Takumar 50mm 1.4, a lens I had picked up in a charity shop for a good price, a lens that had become firm favourite with the bright 1.4 aperture, a lens that in all honesty I thought I had carelessly lost.

It was while I was going through one of my lesser used camera bags in this morning’s sort-athon that the elusive lens made its appearance.
If you have ever picked up an LP or CD that you have not heard for ages, it is like hearing it for the first time again, finding this favourite lens was just that same feeling, of course, I had to go out and use it didn’t I?


At wide open, this lens offers some pleasing bokeh, stopped down, it has adequate sharpness across the frame and at 50mm is a versatile focal length.

It was fun just to use this one focal length today, if I had a choice of only two focal ranges to shoot, I would go with 35mm and 50mm all day long.

Am I over G.A.S ?

By mid December last year, I was two weeks away from completing my one camera project, shooting with my Fuji X100F exclusively for my personal photography.
I was looking forward to rediscovering my vintage lens collection and a newly acquired 16mm F2 Fuji lens to use on my XE-2.

My 100F was given a well earned break during January, but just recently, I am finding once more that it is the sole camera I am choosing to take on my days out.
I really like the 16mm wide angle lens, I also like the ‘character’ of my Helios and pentacon vintage lenses, but I think the key word here is ‘like’, because with the  100F, I WANT to take photos.

My camera bag too, has become more basic, where I may have carried a couple of filters and a small tripod, I am beginning to care less about long exposure photography, after all, how many smokey water shots does one need,besides which, carrying extra gear ‘just in case’ is losing its appeal.

All the above appear to be pointing to the fact that my G.A.S (gear acquisition syndrome) is finally on the ebb, the final nail in the coffin, just this week, with the announcement of the shiny, new X100V, a camera called by one ambassador for the fuji brand as ‘refined’.

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that I would love to buy the new model, but a modicum of sense has crept into my thought process and simply asked, ‘Do I NEED it’, the answer is quite simply, no.
Fujifilm got a lot right with the ‘F’, enough to make this once serial camera changer happy to continue shooting with what I have.

 

 

 

Crisp winter days

Here we are, half way through January and I feel that we have not yet felt the icy fingers of winter, it could be the lull before what is now termed a polar vortex but used to be simply known as ‘a cold snap’.

Today, winter arrived but in one of it’s kinder moods, one of those cold, bright days where you wake to a dusting of frost on house roofs and the grass has turned white, as if through shock.

It is about an hour before the sun will rise, but through the lifting darkness there appears to be a blanket of mist in the distance, the omens are good for some more photos along the Exe.

As I head out, it would appear Jack Frost has worked overtime, painted icy swirls on cars  that are actually quite beautiful to look at, for me at least, not those that may have to spend time scraping it off if they need be somewhere early.

I reach the footpath to the river, luminous yellow jacketed volunteers have been out in force placing route direction signs for a fun run that has been organised today, it is not long before the serious runners appear in the distance, I will happily step aside as they pass, to a man (or woman) they keep a regular check on their watches in their pursuit of personal best times.

As the first group passes, I admire the serene beauty of frost laden brambles and other hedgerow flora and fauna, the stillness of the river and the eerie silence of the still heavy mist on the river.
Through the mist, I can just make out a heron, stood statue like by the waters edge, as the next group of runners pass by, it takes off effortlessly, and there he was…. gone.

The sun has made an appearance, just a milky glow as seeks to penetrate through the cloud but makes for some atmospheric shots as more runners appear in the distance, more shadow than portrait, I think these may just work.

I have a good half mile to go before I get to where I hope the best moody shots could be, I would really like the mist to hang around a while longer to get some shots of the scullers as they appear through the fog.
There is a pub nearby called the double locks, here they have a couple landing stages for the boats to be physically pulled in and out of the water to make progress in either direction.

My fears of the sun burning through the cloud are unfounded, here I get a couple of shots I am really happy with, anything else is a bonus.

 

I would appear to have something of a routine going these days, as I am about to head for home, I will find a place to sit, and enjoy the hot thermos of tea I made earlier, while making a few notes for today’s blog and a few ideas for my later photo editing.
What a great start to the day.